Monday, June 30, 2008

Creative leadership - Syrian Takana and Rav Hirsch - One size doesn't fit all

R' Bartley Kulp has left a new comment on your post "Recipients and Publicity attacks the Syrian Takana...":

Recipients and publicity said...

"One thing is for sure, the present Belzer Rebbe is different to most others and he certainly does not hold that Belz should follow in the steps of the notorious "Syrian takana" banning the acceptance of any geirim (especially by marriage) into the Syrian community and that he (the Belzer Rebbe) understands the deep significance and merit of accepting true geirei tzedek bazman hazeh."

I think that the leaders of the Syrian community also understood the important mitzva of ahavat hager. However, unlike the current Belzer kehilla the Syrians were grappling with the issue of intermarriage. You might say that this is a ramification of embracing open society. Not that I am being critical of this approach. Every approach has its advantages and disadvantages. It is up to the leaders of each community to act in accordance with their own unique circumstances.

This is why Rabbi Sampson Raphael Hirsch was respected by his contemporaries in Eastern Europe. Even though Rav Hirsch advocated an embracement of modern culture (something that was anathema to them), they understood that the German kehilla was different in a social demographic kind of way. They understood that they lived in a different reality, meaning that a different approach was necessary in leadership.

Ironically it was Rav Hirsch who successfully petitioned the government to allow separate public representation for the orthodox community. This action was subsequently copied afterwards by kehillot all over Europe. There was now a situation where you had an Orthodox kehilla embracing its modern cultural surroundings while seemingly kicking its secular brethren in the butt. That does not sound very utilitarian does it?

Rav Hirsch was fighting for the spiritual life of his kehilla. Germany was the place birthplace of the reform and conservative movements. They had made deep demographic inroads in the kehilla and were threatening to make Torah extinct there. Rav Hirsch had to be mavdil bein kodesh l'chol for the sake of his followers.

Over 100 years later Rav Yoseph B. Soloveitchik (example of another Rav who embraced modernity)poskined that the Orthodox leadership in the United States should cooperate with the reform and conservatives visa-vi for public policy and government issues. He said that while we (the Orthodox) do not recognize the reform and conservative rabbis as religious leaders, they are in fact community leaders and we should cooperate with them in matters of public policy.

Does this mean that Rav Soleveitchik learned shas different from Rav Hirsch? I do not think so. Just their situations were different. I also do not think that the actions of the Belzer rebbe and the Syrian chachamim necessarily bare any insight on how they learned shas respectively.

What is appropriate in one time and place is not necessarily appropriate for different one.

Recipients and Publicity attacks the Syrian Takana & me -again & again & again

I found the following comment strange - but perhaps it is truly the dominant view of how the readers see me and my blog. Perhaps what has me most perplexed as to why anyone who feels the way our distinguished commentator feels - would waste his time not only carefully reading every word on the blog - but responding with detailed remarks? Has he decided that he has been given a divine mission - or perhaps punishment - to straighten me out? In addition his obsession with exposing the "evil" Syrian Takana - does not serve any purpose nor have I yet received a single reference to any major posek who agrees with him. It is also rather comic to expose the fact [considering that this is my blog] that I think it is all right to say whatever I want and repeat it as many times as I want.

I suggest that all of you who are jealous of my "power and control" to simply create your own blogs. I also find it problematic that he thinks only two people agree with me and the rest of the readers and lurkers are insulted by my comments. If that is so - why don't you people find something else to read. Why read material that you find dead wrong and insulting? While I personally don't think that there is 100% agreement very often, there is at least 50% agreement.

I was approached Friday night by a certain talmid chachom who being very frum does not have an internet connection. However his brother in law from YU regularly sends him material from this blog as emails. He told me that my blog has become popular reading among the YU community - and that they are interested in being exposed to a chareidi view and they especially enjoy Rav Sternbuch's pronouncements on various topics. Anyway for those of you who are too stupid to realize that you are being insulted and degraded by my comments I'll let our distinguished commentator - who I have not yet succeeded in fooling - inform you of the true nature of things.
Recipients and Publicity has left a new comment on your post "Conversion crisis - because the Modern Orthodox ar...":

DaasTorah (Dr. Eidensohn) asks: "...why not compile a list of all the gedolim who have condemned it.[Syrian Takana] I haven't seen credible evidence that even a single gadol has denounced it. But according to you the list should include every rabbi"

You are inadvertantly giving the answer yourself, that the so-called 1930s era Syrian Jewish "takana" is a total non-entity and non-starter not deserveng of a comment in the eyes of the Torah world (except of course for the likes of "Jersey girl" and "bright eyes" on this blog who seem marginally associated with the Syrian commnuty and wish to cover for them when noone else does.)

Therefore the answer to you is that no Orthodox rabbi, let alone a Gadol BeYisroel, has any need to "condemn" or even comment upon a nisht tzum zach, krumme, and non sequitor "decree" that as they say in Yiddish is "nisht gefloigen und nisht geshtoigen" in either Halacha or hashkofa, as I too have amply demonstrated in the past.

By the way Dr. Eidensohn, I resent the way that you write "The horse that you are beating died a long time ago. You are misrepresenting the Syrian Takana - as has been amply documented on this blog"

Your haughty comment makes it seem that only YOU have the right to repeat yourself and flog dead horses. How many times have you already tried to
"kill off" Modern Orthodox and Religious Zionist views of things and noone has accused you of "beating a horse that died a long time ago"?

In any case, from what can be gleaned here noone in a position of rabbinic power and Halachic influence affiliated with Modern Orthodoxy or Religious Zionism pays any attention to what you say as you repetatively preach to handclapping from a peanut-gallery of two so far, "Jersey girl" and "bright eyes" because almost everyone else that posts comments here is opposed to what you say and and your take on things.

No issue is "dead" as long as it is still an ongoing matter, as you prove yourself with the "I" and "II" and "III" versions of reposting on the same old same old issues and topics as you preach to your own converted audience and convince noone outside of "Jersey girl" and "bright eyes" who don't need much convincing to support what you have to say at any time judging by their knee-jerk agreement with whatever you post.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Chillul HaShem of Renegade Kanoim

The problem of renegade kanoim - is a growing plague in the chareidi world. These are lawless animals who are endangering the life and limb of others - in their self proclaimed campaign of terror - to rid the world of all they find offensive. Their actions are not in accord with the Torah - and they are a major chillul HaShem.

Erev Shabbos an electronics store was burned down in Geula for selling mp4 players (video). It seems a miracle that aside from people who broke their legs escaping from the fire - B"H no one was killed. In addition the fire required police and firemen to endanger their lives - as well as forcing them to work on Shabbos.

Some of the details are reported in Chedrei Chadorim. More developments are expected tomorrow and will be dutifully reported here. YNET also has an article

Conversion crisis - because the Modern Orthodox are wimps! III

I am making this into a post because it expresses the view of many Modern Orthodox - that halacha can not cause pain. Torah always is pleasant and that G-d would never want any one to suffer [Totally ignoring the huge literature on the suffering of the righteous]. If a person is sincere enough or needy enough - then we count it as if he had fulfilled the halachic requirements. Such a view is nonsense from the point of view of halacha. If you reject the halacha - that is your choice - but don't twist halachic Judaism into something it isn't.

There is an additional factor for posting this. The ready assumption of the commentator that he "knows" what G-d wants independently of a source in the halacha. Scholarship is not important because he knows G-d's values - which are that of any compassionate person. He creates G-d in his image! On the other hand he condemns those who disagree with his views to the worse possible fate. How does he know? Is he a prophet? Was he in Heaven discussing this with G-d? As one of my rebbeim put it, "There is kiruv Torah for the beginners and those who can't handle reality- but there is a reality which exists independently of our wishes and fears. At some point an adult needs to deal with reality." Compassion is important - but it is bounded by halacha.

Halacha is not infinitely plastic - and we don't give A's to everyone who cries for failing the test.

R' Moshe Lehman wrote on the post "Conversion crisis - because Modern Orthodox are w...":

We must love the Ger, a Mitzva D'Oraita. To tell a righteous convert that he is not Jewish clearly comes close to the worst thing one could do to him or her.

DT: The mitzva to love the ger only applies to gerim. The issue before us are people who have been declared not to be gerim.

Says Daas Torah that this is not relevant if the Beis Din he converted at was Pasul, because then the convert is not a Jew, I do not need to love him.

DT. Concerning halacha - if a person eats the most expensive matzah and with great kavana - on the Fourth of July - it doesn't count. If there was no beis din - the geirus doesn't count. If a person wore tefilin for 50 years and then discovered they had no parchments inside - he has not fulfilled the mitzva of tefilin. A woman who remarries with the consent of the greatest rabbis - but here husband is still alive - is sinning and her children are mamzerim. A person who is not a ger is not included in the mitzva of loving the ger.There is no Torah obligation to love him. On the other hand, he is still a human being and we should feel his pain and upset.

The issue at hand reaches far beyond itself. How do we see Halacha? How do we see Torah?

Is Torah something technical, or are (some) Jews being technical about it?

Does truth play a role in defining Halacha, or is Halacha a system that legally defines truth for us?

This is a Litmus test. The Kitrug screams to Shamayim. There are no words to describe the fate of those who choose to be technical even in the case of righteous converts.

Many people from Third World countries claim to be Jewish

Bartley Kulp asked:

Question: What is your halachic take on the subject of people claiming lost tribe lineage? In light of these two articles from YNET
Answer: There is no halachic basis to accept them as Jews.
Ynet News -
YNET reports

Tens of thousands of requests submitted to Interior Ministry in past two years by residents of Third World countries seeking to immigrate to Israel, claiming to be members of '10 lost tribes

Nurit Felter

Who wants to be a Jew? It appears that many people around the world would like to join the club which would grant them free entry into the State of Israel.

Interior Ministry data reveal that tens of thousands of requests have been filed in the past two years by members of "lost Jewish tribes" worldwide, mainly from Third World countries, seeking to immigrate to Israel.

A rise in the number of appeals has been noted in the past year. The drop in the number of new immigrants arriving in Israel continued in the past Jewish year (18,746 new immigrants compared to 23,050 in the previous year). This trend has motivated private organizations, many of them religiously orientated, to locate descendants of the 10 tribes and bring them to Israel.

Interior Ministry officials are less enthusiastic over the matter and have recently issued strict regulations for people who converted abroad and seek to immigrate to Israel as Jews. Sources in the ministry noted that more than half of the people who immigrated to Israel under the Law of Return, about 54%, were not really Jewish. A draft document distributed in the past few days among organizations dealing with conversion lists a number of strict criteria set by the Interior Ministry for granting citizenship to people who converted to Judaism abroad. Among the criteria: Taking part in regular Judaism lessons for nine months while actively participating in community life.

Data obtained by Yedioth Ahronoth reveal that thousands of people, claiming to be members of the 10 lost tribes, most of them from Africa and Asia, have immigrated to Israel with the help of different haredi groups, or are demanding to make aliyah.

According to estimates, millions of people in countries across the world – including Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, Ethiopia, India, China, Russia, Peru, Portugal, Brazil and Spain – are demanding that Israel recognize their Jewish status.

Friday, June 27, 2008

The Taliban - or being accused by others of having inferior moral standards

R' Josh Waxman said...

What is your take on this?


Also reported in Jerusalem Post:
A grandiose event marking the inauguration of the new bridge at the entrance to Jerusalem was marred late Wednesday night when a girls' dance troupe performing at the celebration was forced to wear hats to conform to the demands of the haredi-run city hall, the head of the dance troupe said Thursday.

The NIS 2 million bash had already been criticized as excessively extravagant and a waste of public funds, when the girls, who ranged in age from 13 to 16, were informed by production organizers several hours before the event that at the municipality's instruction they had to don black knitted hats and wear long clothing for the performance, said Shlomi Hoffman, the director of the Jerusalem dance troupe.

The controversy over what media were referring to as the "Taliban dance troupe" brought the sensitive issue of religious coercion in the capital to the fore in an election year.

"As an Israeli and a Jerusalemite, it is very painful to see this process of frightening religious extremism," Hoffman said.

Hoffman, 58, who comes from a traditional home, said it was clear that Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski was involved in the "extremist" decision which, he said, started unfolding late Tuesday night when Deputy Jerusalem Mayor Yehoshua Pollack of the mayor's United Torah Judaism Party called the girls "promiscuous" in an interview with a haredi radio station and vowed that they would not appear at the event.

The head of the dance troupe noted that the girls - who were also informed an hour before the event that they could not perform three out of four of their planned dances - had danced in the official state Independence Day ceremony just one month ago on Mount Herzl in virtually the same attire.

"This was not a religious event or an event at the Western Wall, but an event for the public at large for the inauguration of a bridge," Hoffman said.

The girls' parents expressed outrage Thursday over the incident.

"[Up to] this very moment, I cannot understand how we allowed this to happen, and why we did not stop the performance," said Jerusalem resident Marcel Levy, whose 15-year-old daughter was a member of the dance troupe. "Since when do you force 15-year-old girls to cover up their hair?"

"This incident takes us back to the days of the Taliban," said Avi Ben-David, also of Jerusalem, whose 15-year-old daughter was also part of the performance. "This should serve as a wake-up call to Jerusalem's non-haredi voters ahead of the mayoral elections, and maybe this time they will [get out of] their apathetic state."

Jerusalem opposition leader Nir Barkat said Thursday that a red line had been crossed by the haredi city leadership, which smacked of a pattern to drive secular residents out of the city.

First of all if you live according to halacha - whether you are Chareidi or Modern Orthodox - there is a clear halachic problem of watching 13 to 16 year olds girls dancing - especially if they are not weaing modest clothing. As can seen be the before picture provided with the original url - these are not little girls performing at kindergarten graduation. Furthermore for those who live according to halacha - it is being quite lenient to have a public dance performance of young women dancing - even if they are modestly clothed. I am not sure why it should be permitted. Thus it has nothing to do with the Chareidi stringencies. If someone can provide me with the ruling of a respected rabbi permitting this I would be most appreciative.

However if you don't live according to halacha than the rest of the post is relevant.

I once gave a lecture in Great Neck to an Modern Orthodox audience concerning dealing with children becoming more religious than their parents. I asserted that there are many Jewish parents who would rather that their children join Hari Krishna or some other cult - than to become Chareidi. Some of the parents thought it was a ridiculous idea. However the rav of the Shul confirmed that in fact that was his experience - not only amongst secular parents but also amongst Modern Orthodox.
I have observed a similar phenomenon when children of yeshivishe families becomes chassidic - especially Breslav.

Another example, I have had the strange experience of walking to Shul on Shabbos in various American communities and being criticised by Jews for wearing my talis. They found it very embarrassing.

When I went to Rensselaer Polytechinic Institute in Troy New York - the Reform Temple had a rule - that the only person allowed to wear a kippah and talis was the cantor - who was a black woman who was not Jewish. Up until recently kippah and talis were embarrassing to the Reform Movement.

A few years ago I met Rabbi Eric Yoffie - President of the Reform Movement - at the International Book Fair in Jerusalem and he mentioned that there have been significant changes in the Reform movement in recent years. One of them was that they had appointed a new head of their New York Seminary - who accepted the job only on the condition that it would henceforth be referred to a beis medrash. He said he was sure many of the founders of the Reform movement were turning over in their graves because of the move towards more traditional forms of worship and behavior.

Bottom line is that people can tolerate and even value differences in others - if it doesn't reflect negatively on them. High standards of modesty can be tolerated by most of us - unless we perceive it as labeling us as deviants.

This talk about Taliban is an indication that the local population views such standards as indicating that they are lax in their moral standards. If they were visiting Saudi Arabia they would have no problem acting so as to not offend the natives. Or if they were hosting a Saudi Arabian diplomat they would not find it problematic to adhere to his standards so as not to offend him.

The standards of the world are changing. Constantly invoking the Taliban or mental illness or lack of common sense - just shows a fear of being judged as morally inferior.

In New York there is a community called Starrett City. The developers of the community were liberals in the old sense of the word - and they wanted to have a truly integrated community. They were advised by sociologists that whites would stay in the community with blacks as long as they were at least 60% of the community. Below that point they felt intimated by minority and would leave. So Starrett City introduced a rule that the whites must always be at least 60%.

The above rule applies to other communities. As the native population increasing views it self as a shrinking majority which is losing control over the values of the community - they get frightened and insecure and resentful.

That is one of the reasons that at least under Mayor Kolleck there was an attempt to have homogeneous neighborhoods of secular and religious Jews.

Bottom line is that it is a common reaction of the indigenous population - and there is no simple solution. There is usually a lot of very negative feelings to those who make us feel inferior and/or immoral when we have had a high view of ourselves up until the outsiders moved in.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Zechus Avos (ancestral merit) - does it still exist?

Garnel Ironheart commented:

DaatTorah, I think I can help you out. The gemara says we ran out of zechus Avos a long time ago so you can put a passing footnote in and move on.

The gemora does in fact state that zechos avos stopped sometime during the First Temple:

Shabbos(55a): Samuel said: The taw denotes, the merit of the Patriarchs is exhausted [tamah].19 R. Johanan said: The merit of the Patriarchs will confer grace [tahon].[ (20) Samuel explains the taw on the wicked; R. Johanan that on the righteous.] …. And since when has the merit of the Patriarchs been exhausted? — Rab said, Since the days of Hosea the son of Beeri, for it is written, [And now] will I discover her lewdness in the sight of her lovers, and none shall deliver her out of mine hand.22 Samuel said. Since the days of Hazael, for it is said, And Hazael king of Syria oppressed Israel all the days of Jehoahaz;23 and it is written, But the Lord was gracious unto them, and had compassion upon them, and had respect unto them, because of the covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and would not destroy them, neither cast he them from his presence until now.24 R. Joshua b. Levi said: Since the days of Elijah, for it is said, And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening oblation, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said, O Lord, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word.25 [25) I Kings XVIII, 36. Here too this day implies a limitation.] R. Johanan said: Since the days of Hezekiah, for it is said, Of the increase of his government and of peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with judgement and with righteousness for henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts shall perform this.26 [Isa. IX, 6. ‘The zeal, etc.’ implies, but not the merit of the Patriarchs, this being exhausted by now.]

However we have

Vayikra Rabbah(36:6):. How long did the merit of the Patriarchs endure? R. Tanhuma said in the name of R. Hiyya b. Menahma, or, as some say, R. Berekiah b. Helbo said it in the name of Rabba b. Zabda: Until Jehoahaz. This is proved by the text, But the Lord was gracious unto them, and had compassion on them... because of His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and would not destroy them... until now (II Kings XIII, 23), as much as to say, ’until now’ the merit of the Patriarchs has endured. R. Joshua b. Levi says: Until Elijah. This is proved by the text, And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening offering, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said: O Lord the God of Abraham, of Isaac and of Israel (I Kings XVIII, 36). Samuel said: Until Hosea. This is proved by the text, And now will I uncover her shame in the sight of her lovers, and none (ish) shall deliver her out of My hand (Hosea II, 12); ’ish’ in the present context signifying Abraham, as may be inferred from the citation, Now therefore restore the man's (ish) wife (Gen. XX, 7); ’ish’ also signifies Isaac, as it says, What man (ish) is this? (ib. XXIV, 65); and ’ish’ also signifies Jacob, as it says, Jacob was a quiet man--ish (ib. XXV, 27). R. Judan says: Until Hezekiah. This may be proved by the citation: That the government may be increased, and of peace there be no end... The zeal of the Lord of hosts1 doth perform this (Isa. IX, 6). R. Judan b. Rabbi in the name of R. Berekiah said: If you see that the merit of the Patriarchs is failing and the merit of the Matriarchs slipping away, go and occupy yourself with benevolence [love]. This is borne out by the text, For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed; but My love shall not depart from thee (ib. LIV, 10); ’mountains’ signify the Patriarchs, ’hills’ the Matriarchs, and after that ’My love shall not depart from thee’.2 R. Acha said: The merit of the Patriarchs shall endure for ever. We shall always mention them and say: For the Lord thy God is a merciful God; He will not fail thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers, etc. (Deut. V, 31)

Ohr Zarua(2:23) says we poken like the above view of R' Acha against the view of the Bavli

However we have another Bavli which clearly states that zechus avos did not end in the First Temple. This is the incident where R' Gamliel was replace by R' Eleazar ben Azariah.

Berachos (27b ): Come, let us depose him! Whom shall we appoint instead? We can hardly appoint R. Joshua, because he is one of the parties involved. We can hardly appoint R. Akiba because perhaps Rabban Gamaliel will bring a curse on him because he has no zechus avos. Let us then appoint R. Eleazar b. Azariah, who is wise and rich and the tenth in descent from Ezra. He is wise, so that if anyone puts a question to him he will be able to answer it. He is rich, so that if occasion arises for paying court19 to Caesar he will be able to do so. He is tenth in descent from Ezra, so that he has zechus avos and he [Rabban Gamaliel] cannot bring a curse on him.